The Clippers found themselves in a bit of a rut Sunday, having lost three of the last four games against the Bulls, Grizzlies, and Pelicans, who boast the second-worst record in the entire league. This isn’t unprecedented—a couple back-to-backs and a road trip surely led to a degree of fatigue, but it’s a far cry from the performance of the team during the seven game winning streak they enjoyed right before their loss against the Bulls.
Although early Sunday afternoon games pose well-known issues for the Clippers, this matchup against the Mavericks without Luka Dončić could be just what they need to get their momentum back, as they escaped with a 97-91 win.
The first few minutes of the game started off slowly, but the Mavericks were able to grab a three-point lead by the end of the first quarter. It was heartening to see Serge Ibaka return to the court, where he grabbed a couple boards and chipped in a few points, but it was clear he still will need some more time to get comfortable with the NBA game after his injury.
Additionally, Amir Coffey’s understated presence shows promise for him as a player. He demonstrated a competency on defense that can be compared to Nicolas Batum, having the length to disrupt passes while being able to stay in front of whoever has the ball. He also is confident on offense, running pick-and-rolls with bigs while also moving out to the perimeter to receive kick out passes on drives.
However, it was the Clippers’ turnovers that were once again the main issue of concern. They ended the first half with seven of them, but a short run starting from a Paul George poster and ending with a pair of Reggie Jackson free throws kept it a one-point game.
During the third quarter, however, we saw the same Clippers that we’ve seen time and time again — an explosion in the second half helping to overcome a first-half deficit. George and Jackson continued the show they started in the second quarter, with Jackson hitting tough pull-up threes and George punishing his defenders in the post. Coffey again made an impact defensively, guarding Kristaps Porzingis and limiting the damage he could do after a 15-point first half.
After flipping that deficit into a nine-point lead, the Clippers were able to hold on and grab their 10th win of the season. They will be facing the Mavericks for the third time in the season on Tuesday, so control of the season series is still in the air, but it’s safe to say that adjustments (and perhaps Dončić’s return) will force the Clippers to approach the next game with some creativity in order to get another win.